Blogger Joel Wilhelm shared this article in a comment here the other day. The article, written by Fr. Lee Nelson, was published after a June 2010 meeting of the ACNA's College of Bishops, where the bishops took up the question of women's ordination to the priesthood. Arguing the "pro" side was the Rev. Dr. Grant LeMarquand, who has a position paper that was linked at the Trinity School for Ministry's website shortly after the meeting of the College of Bishops. I'm guessing this may be the paper he presented there. Opposing Dr. LeMarquand was the Rt. Rev. Keith Ackerman, who argued for the Catholic position. Fr. Nelson's summary cuts right to the heart of the issue (bolded emphasis mine):
A document distributed and later discussed by Dr. Fairfield distinguished between three positions: the Reformed, the Anglo-Catholic, and the Missional, the first two being “prohibitive” and the latter being “permissive.” The idea was to get a feel for the range of positions held within the ACNA. The Reformed position was characterized as dissenting from the ordination of women based upon Scriptural grounds. The Anglo-Catholic position was rightly characterized by an adherence to Scriptural grounds as well as adherence to the universal practice of the Church catholic. The missional position is essentially a defense of the practice based upon the call of the Church to witness in every age and nation, further understanding ordination as ordination to “ministry” rather than to the ancient orders of the Church.
The Catholic position was ably defended by Bishop Ackerman, who noted that this was the first time he had every been able to do so in any official context. Drawing upon C.S. Lewis, Eric Mascall, and the Church Fathers (among others), he presented a view of the priesthood in Anglicanism as identical to that of the Church catholic. Of note was his request that the use of such terms as “salvation issue,” “tertiary,” “secondary,” and “adiaphora” be avoided in the discussion. One has to agree that these terms immediately color the dialogue with an air of one side being passionately engaged while the other is indifferent. The use of such terms is at best to say the disagreements don’t matter, and at the worst – offensive. Remarkably, Dr. LeMarquand agreed wholeheartedly with this assertion, as did many of the bishops who later spoke to the panel.
Dr. LeMarquand presented what could best be characterized as a defense for the ministry of women from the New Testament perspective. Admittedly, the Catholic position takes no issue with many of the assertions made, for instance that women may occupy teaching roles, speak in church, etc. The trouble is that the two sides are speaking remarkably difference languages when it comes to the nature of Holy Orders. The missional position is essentially Wesleyan, asserting that ordination is merely an official recognition of ministry, while the Catholic position is that ordination confers an ontological mark upon the person, making him “a priest forever.” The trouble with the missional position, from my perspective is that it represents a break from classical Anglicanism as well as catholic practice. The Caroline Divines, as well as the English Reformers saw no difference between Anglican Orders and the Orders of the Roman Church, albeit with often sharp contrasts in practice.
Indeed, nothing could be clearer than that the so-called "missional" theory of ordination is more Wesleyan than anything else, and as such, it stands in stark opposition to Anglican divinity on the nature of Anglican orders from the Reformers on down to the Caroline and Tractarian divines. Much effort was expended by Anglican clergy and scholars, and successfully, to counter Pope Leo XIII's Bull of 1896, Apostolicae Curae, which argued essentially that Anglican orders had become Protestant orders. Only a few decades after the publication of Apostolicae Curae, the Eastern Orthodox churches, who characteristically did not care one whit about Rome's judgment, conducted their own studies on the matter. They essentially though not withut qualification concluded that Anglican orders are valid, which meant that they believed them to be Catholic orders, and in some cases throught the exercise of economia gave permission to their flock to receive sacraments from Anglican clergy.
The point is, Anglican orders are Catholic orders. Pope Leo couldn't disprove it (and some modern Roman Catholic bishops as much as admit that he didn't), and before things started going haywire in the Anglican Communion in the mid-20th century, Orthodoxy was on the verge of recognizing our orders as valid Catholic orders. If there was any way in which Anglican orders were "missional" and therefore open to women, the Orthodox wouldn't have bothered. It appears to me that William Witt in his series of articles, the first one of which was published in late 2013, is trying to construct a particular theological understanding of Anglican orders that, unlike the "missional" view, both accounts for the Catholic nature of Anglican orders AND attempts to create a rationale for altering a 2,000 year old practice of ordaining males only.
Fr. Nelson concludes his article by stating that "there is a recognition that the issue cuts to the very heart of what ordained ministry is, and the bishops recognized that this question needs to be at the center of further discussions." Unfortunately, ACNA did not put a moratorium on the ordination of women to the priesthood when it was formed back in 2009, and those dioceses that ordain women make this issue harder to resolve with every female they ordain to the priesthood. Time's a'wastin'.